Bruno Senna’s optimistic outlook may see him shift to another series

If ever there was a poster child for perpetual, unshakeable positivity – at least in public fora – Bruno Senna would be it.

Throughout the three years of his Formula 1 career, his comments in interviews have been on the optimistic side of realism. Yes, this weekend the car should be strong. We’ve brought updates that should give us the edge over [insert closest rival team name here]. I didn’t have a great performance in qualifying, but I believe I can fight for points. The car/team/situation (delete as appropriate) last year was rubbish, but I’m in a better place now; this year will be better.

More than words

write this in the wake of the announcement that Williams passed him over in favour of Valtteri Bottas as their second driver for 2013. And his press release after that? Well, it went to the tune of, “I’m fine. I was expecting it. I’m working on options for next year.” It’s as though he misread the paper that told him his blood type (B positive), and adopted it as a life motto instead. His website currently says, “Formula 1 news coming soon.” Whether that means we’ll soon find out he’s racing in another series – for example, tin-tops a la Chandhok – or if he’s taking Hülkenberg’s seat at Force India we have yet to find out.

To his credit, nobody will go on record with a bad word to say about him. His team bosses and engineers praise his dedication and intelligence; journalists in the paddock rate him as the friendliest of all the drivers; fans who meet him always seem a bit overawed by how nice he is. But his results have been… er, reliably average. Whether that’s because he really is just an average driver or because he’s a few years behind his compatriots in terms of experience (having sacrificed his ambition to family pressure for almost a decade) remains to be seen. It’s that family heritage that makes everyone expect him to drive like his uncle in the prime of his career.

Medium rare results

In his almost-year at Hispania (he was chucked out of the car for Silverstone, because the team needed Yamamoto’s sponsorship money to pay a few bills), he out-performed his team-mate often enough… when his car got to the chequered flag. They had no updates all season and he managed to get closer to the front of the field, so he didn’t have a bad season all things considered.

At Renault, his performances were less stellar, but part of it might be that he came in halfway through the season to replace an under-performing Heidfeld; mid-season replacement drivers usually struggle. At Williams, as Bruno kept reminding us in interviews, he relinquished the car for fifteen practice sessions; that translates to 10% less time in the car than his team mate.

It’s not enough, however, to have a talent for spin; ultimately, management care about results, and his sponsorship money couldn’t change their mind.

It’s also not enough to rely on the much-used quote of Ayrton’s – “If you think I’m quick, you should see my nephew [Bruno].” With Jules Bianchi tipped to take the second Force India seat, and Lotus looking settled with their line-up, it’s not looking hopeful. Caterham and Marussia both have seats available, but rumour has it his sponsors don’t want their names associated with a back-marker team.

Sideways glance

The question is: will Senna’s positivity pay off? He’s been rewarded for his chin-up attitude the last two seasons, but has his Bruno-charm reached the end of its shelf-life when it comes to securing a seat?

In 2009, he spent some time in the Le Mans Series; perhaps a year there or in the World Endurance Championship would do him well. A report emerged this morning that he had recently tested a Mercedes DTM car, making a year in tin-tops look more likely. With plans for Formula E coming along nicely, he might find himself with options in that series when it launches.

While I would like to see him in an F1 seat to prove his mettle as a driver, spending a year in another series might be the best career choice for him right now. It would allow him to hone his skills in a team glad of his experience, and he would likely afford one of the better cars available. It might be a good idea to – as Tom Holt would put it – promote himself sideways for a while to enjoy some success and build up his confidence a bit.

Moving for a year may give him a comparable confidence advantage as Pérez’s move to McLaren; if nothing else, it must get quite tiresome spending every weekend reiterating an optimistic script of sound-bites.

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